June 2017 E-Mail Update
Here is our 06/09/2017 e-mail update. It is sent after the statistics for the preceding month have been posted on the Board of Realtors website. You can find previous newsletters by visiting www.stott.com/news.
The median sales price in May for single family homes was $745,000 (3.6% higher than May 2016) and for condos was $406,500 (9.0% higher than May 2016). Demand for both single family homes and condos was over 13% higher than last year and supply remains extremely tight. There were currently only 2.7 months of inventory for single family homes and only 2.8 months of inventory for condos.
U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono has been diagnosed with kidney cancer and will undergo surgery to remove her right kidney and to remove a lesion found on a rib. Her physician expects her to make a full recovery.
A recent environmental action highlights the difficulty of increasing infrastructure capacity on a crowded island and trying to minimize negative impacts on a fragile environment. The Hawaii State Department of Health has fined the City and County of Honolulu and the contractor hired to build a sewer tunnel between Kaneohe and Kailua. The state fined the city $140,000 and the contractor $560,000 for violating a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit by discharging dewatering effluent into Kawa Stream and Nuupia pond from August 2014 to April 2015. Dewatering effluent is a fancy term for the water that is pumped out of an area to permit construction or manage water seepage. The city and contractor have not violated the permit requirements since.
While Hawaii’s outer islands showed some success in reducing homelessness, Oahu is still struggling to find an answer. Oahu was the only island to show an increase in the homeless population despite years of well publicized efforts by nonprofits to provide services to those that are homeless and local government’s struggle to build shelters. A recent front-page article in the Honolulu Star Advertiser highlights efforts to address a 74% increase in the homeless population located in Wahiawa. Many nonprofits are trying to gain the trust of people who suffer from substance abuse and mental illness while others in the community have lost patience with people that they feel refuse to follow rules, accept responsibility for their actions, and make changes to behaviors that have lead to homelessness. The City and County of Honolulu’s special city cleanup crew recently swept homeless encampments along grassy medians along Nimitz Highway between the airport and Waikiki. Mayor Kirk Caldwell told the Honolulu Advertiser that the sight of blue tarps and tenants along one of Honolulu’s busiest corridors is a “shameful” impression for the 95,000 to 100,000 tourists every day on Oahu.
The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) appears to recognize that government regulated monopolies harm the consumer through higher prices. The PUC recently rejected the application of Hawaiian Electric Company’s (HECO) Big Island subsidiary to buy a power plant in Hilo and further consolidate its dominance in energy production. The 60-megawatt power plant has been selling electricity to Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) under a purchase power agreement since 2001. The PUC ruled that HELCO’s purchase would raise rates in the short-term for anticipated savings to follow many years in the future.
State legislators approved and the Governor signed a bill to allow the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to create public-private partnerships. The first project aims to build on the momentum to replace the aging and deteriorating Aloha Stadium with a smaller stadium, a mixed-use community, and an elevated rail station. Public-private partnerships have recently been sold as a way to save taxpayer money. There have been successes, but some public-private partnerships in other states to build infrastructure have failed with real consequences to the voting public. It often comes down to finding the right balance between providing companies enough flexibility to profitably succeed, while establishing sufficient controls to minimize disruption to the city’s commuters during construction, and not resulting in another taxpayer subsidized boondoggle.
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) towed the first rail car along the elevated guide way near the future West Lock rail station in Waipahu. Mayor Kirk Caldwell took the opportunity to call for a special session of the state Legislature to extend the General Excise Tax surcharge after this year’s regular session closed without an approved extension. The city council deferred a vote earlier in May on raising property taxes to help pay for the financially troubled project earlier in the month in the hopes that a special session would be called. The city council also approved a bond measure to borrow money in early June to continue funding for the project. HART’s Chief Financial Officer recently informed the City Council that the project would run out of money in January 2018 if the bonds were not approved. The project, now estimated to cost about $10 billion, needs to come up with an additional $3 billion in funding.
The City and County of Honolulu have filed a permit to rebuild a berm like barrier protecting an 84-inch pipe that discharges treated sewage 2.3 miles offshore at a depth of 200 feet. The structure will consist of boulder-sized rocks sitting on smaller rocks and rubble and is designed to protect a 400 feet section of pipe that could be exposed to wave activity if nothing is done. A recent study estimates that the shoreline has receded about 150 feet due to erosion since 1955. About 66 million gallons of treated sewage is pumped to sea daily and the City and County fear that a storm or boating accident could rupture the pipe in the future causing serious environmental damage and health concerns.
Another fatal fall served as a reminder that hiking on closed or poorly maintained hiking trails can be deadly. A group of hikers got stranded on Castle Trail in Punaluu Valley after getting stuck in high winds and heavy rain. One hiker got separated from the group and was found dead the next day after falling 300 feet. The rest of the group had to hole up for an evening and were rescued the following day by helicopter. Helicopter rescues are becoming more common as word of incredible views from various hikes have spread over the Internet.
King tides, higher than average tides that occur during the months around the winter and summer solstices, have made the local headlines in several publications. Beach goers are having a much more difficult time finding dry sand on the south shore of Oahu and businesses in the low lying Mapunapuna district have to contend with flooding. When summer swells occur during king tides, coastal areas could be in danger of flooding erosion and waves can top berms. A University of Hawaii oceanography professor also pointed out that strong trade winds that used to push Pacific Ocean waters west have eased recently resulting in higher average water levels in Hawaii. The city Department of Parks and Recreation and many businesses in low-lying areas erected sand bag barriers to try and minimize the impact of the anticipated flooding. Owners of property in low lying areas should make sure their flood insurance is adequate or put it in place if they don’t have any.
Oahu received another Hepatitis A scare when Times Supermarket and Tropic Fish Hawaii, LLC notified the state health department that frozen raw ahi containing the virus was used to prepare poke sold at several Times Supermarket locations, GP Hawaiian Food Catering, and the Crab Shack Kapolei. Tropic Fish Hawaii, LLC has stated that they have changed their procedures to make sure that fish is not distributed until test results for foodborne pathogens are received. The fish, imported from Indonesia, was used to prepare poke sold between April 27 and May 1. The incident is another reminder that people should obtain the Hepatitis A vaccine as protection against this foodborne pathogen. Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection usually appear 2 to 6 weeks after exposure and include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, diarrhea, and yellow skin and eyes.
Hawaii hopes to replicate the water-quality improvement impact of places like Chesapeake Bay, the state Division of Aquatic Resources announced an expansion in its efforts to grow oysters in Pearl Harbor. The department has successfully grown several thousand oysters in Pearl Harbor’s West Loch. Pearl Harbor used to be home to lots of oysters. Each oyster filters about 30 gallons of water per day and is one of natures’ solutions to maintaining water quality.
The first medical marijuana crop has been harvested and the company is waiting to be certified by the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) before it can begin dispensary operation. Three labs have submitted applications to the DOH but none have received approval to test the marijuana. Four of the eight licensed medical marijuana dispensaries have begun growing plants.
Hawaii residents had the 2nd highest amount of consumer debt per capita in the nation. Not surprisingly, most of the debt consisted of home mortgages due to Hawaii’s high real estate prices.
Architectural Digest recently named Howard Hughes’ Ward Village the “Best Master Planned Community” in the Nation. Residents recently moved into the luxury tower Waiea in November. Howard Hughes Corp. has announced six towers to be built and the master plan calls for a village community consisting of 16 towers consisting of 4,300 residences and 1 million square feet of retail space.
Waikiki Brewing Company is opening a second Hawaii location in Kakaako after the successful opening of its first location in Waikiki at the Cheeseburger Waikiki restaurant on the corner of Kalakaua Avenue and Ala Moana Boulevard. About 75% of the customer base comes from the local population while tourists represent the other 25% of the business. The Hawaiian Craft Beer market continues to enjoy strong growth.
Alexander and Baldwin, Inc. (A&B) has established a 4,000-acre grass-fed cattle-pasturing operation on part of its 36,000-acre sugar-cane plantation that closed last year. The ranch plans on increasing the current herd from 300 animals now to 3,500 animals by 2021. The cattle hopes to increase consumer demand for locally sourced beef. The operation is part of A&B’s transition from sugar to diversified agriculture.
Are you interested in sending emojis with a little island flair? Two brothers who grew up on the North Shore have launched apps, Pidginmoji, on Apple’s iMessage platform that feature 800 pidgin expressions using male and female emojis and voice bubbles. Users can purchase versions for 99 cents each or an animated version of each app for $1.99 and can be found on www.pidginmoji.com.
An American Airlines flight from Los Angeles was escorted to Honolulu by two military fighter jets in response to a passenger’s attempt to enter the cockpit with a laptop. Federal authorities held the passenger in custody until he could be returned to the mainland for a competency evaluation.
The Big Island of Hawaii received a boost when Japan Airlines reinstated their non-stop flights from Narita to Kona after a seven-year absence. Japan airlines suspended the route in 2010 as part of a corporate reorganization and downsizing.
Tracey was recognized along with 11 other Hawaii agents as the only agents who have been among the top 100 real estate agents in sales in the state for 11 years in a row. Congratulations to Tracey who has consistently worked extremely hard to help her clients reach their real estate goals. Stott Real Estate, Inc. thanks their clients for their trust and business.
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